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The Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Experience

Executive Summary

This report is a description of the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC, formerly Environment Canada) Project Team’s experiences in their support to the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games (hereafter, the Games). Reflecting on these experiences allows us to synthesize lessons for the improvement of Canadian meteorological services in ways that can benefit future projects and service delivery in general. ECCC’s Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) is already proud of its accomplishments and world-class services. The Games allowed the MSC to harness those world-class services, sharpen the focus on a relatively small region of Canada, and increase the temporal and spatial resolution of observations in that small region to augment meteorological services provided for the Games.

The XVII Pan American Games and the V Parapan American Games were held in Toronto, Canada, from July 10–26, 2015, and from August 7–15, 2015, respectively. Canada welcomed the 40 other countries/nations of the Americas to Toronto and the municipalities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area in Ontario where the summer sports events of the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games were hosted.
Approximately 11,000 athletes, athlete support personnel and technical officials participated in the Games. ECCC’s mission and mandate for the Games were to provide essential services for enhanced weather monitoring and forecasting and for local-level preparedness activities to enhance public safety and decision making.

ECCC derives its mandate from the Department of the Environment Act, which requires implementing environmental legislation, policies and programs to protect, maintain and enhance the quality of the natural environment. It also requires that Canadians are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions to protect their health, safety and security, and economic prosperity in the face of changing weather and environmental conditions.

Flowing naturally from the Department’s mandate, during the creation of the Treasury Board Submission, ECCC had to capture its mission and contributions to the Games. This mission was to provide essential services for enhanced weather monitoring, alerting, and forecasting, for local-level preparedness activities, and to support environmental assessments of projects relating to the Games. The Treasury Board granted ECCC funding starting in 2012 to provide the essential services specific to the Games that were outside the normal scope of duties for the Department. These funds were spent primarily by the MSC.

Once the mission and objectives were well understood, ECCC began developing a Project plan in 2012. It was important to clarify where ECCC fit within the sporting world of the Pan and Parapan American Games Organizing Committee and within the Essential Federal Services (EFS) picture in order to properly support the operations of the Games and the federal services related to safety and security at the Games.

From the Project’s inception through to its closure, close to 450 people within ECCC made contributions to ensure the success of the delivery of services. During the earliest days, a small expert team representing monitoring, prediction and services, science and information technology was formed to craft, negotiate and document ECCC’s contributions to the Games in the Treasury Board Submission. Internally, the design for the Project structure started to take shape once the scope of the Project was approved with funding authorized for spending by the Treasury Board Secretariat. A Project Lead was identified within ECCC, and a Project Office Manager and Project Assurer chosen to lead and coordinate the work prior to, during and after the Games.

A Steering Committee, Project Board and Working Groups were created in support of ECCC’s project for the Games. There was a great deal of leadership provided across branches within the Department, where expertise was leveraged to provide strong advice, guidance, support and direction to the Project Office.

The Project Team began with the necessities. There had to be a design for the new atmospheric monitoring network, known as the Mesonet, to cover all venue locations and transportation routes between them. Early on, with only a few partners engaged, the Project Team anticipated additional needs for the Project and built in some flexibilities while assessing and mitigating risks along the way. For example, although ECCC formally did not provide sport-specific forecasts or alerts, the briefing teams understood the value of weather briefings and the importance of tailoring observational data and forecasts to enable sport organizations to make sport-specific decisions.

Additionally, a new meteorological workstation was designed for use during the Games such that it could be easily replicated and re-used for future events. Data capture and archival techniques were modified to include data arriving each minute from some instruments rather than each hour. This influx of operational data, products and information has been captured and is available to the world at the Government of Canada’s Open Data Portal.

The new Mesonet installed and operated in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area added close to 60 new automated land and marine stations to the existing monitoring networks. MSC forecasters were selected and trained to support the nuances associated with the Games. Briefers were chosen to provide bilingual in-depth weather briefings based on enhanced atmospheric monitoring data, venue alerts and forecasts. Dissemination of weather conditions and forecasts was the final piece toward having our data and information available to Games organizers, venue managers, coaches and athletes. All select recipients of this information were extremely appreciative of the value of the weather details that were provided.

In support of the Games, research scientists collaborated closely with the Project Team to demonstrate a “Science Showcase” to highlight cutting-edge research and operational capabilities. This Science Showcase comprised several observational, numerical modelling and nowcasting initiatives, and built on the automated stations installed in the Mesonet.

Its design included multiple car-top mobile weather and air quality instrumentation. A high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) total lightning mapping array also covered the Games domain. Scanning Doppler LiDARs and instrumented boats were deployed to support sailing activities, and meteorological instrumentation “supersites” were established to the west and east of Toronto.

A “next generation” forecasting, nowcasting and alerting demonstration was undertaken to evaluate the use of a multi-scale “MetObject” (meteorological graphic object) approach. A number of experimental products were generated relating to convection initiation and severe thunderstorms, which made full use of the Games Mesonet and various meteorological predictions from experimental high-resolution numerical weather prediction and air quality models. Real-time and post-Games verification were also a priority. These showcase products were made available to forecasters and briefers using Web-based applications.

A number of advantages emerged as a result of ECCC’s participation in the Games. There was a great deal of partnering and networking required in order to work with our main client, the Toronto 2015 (TO2015) Games Organizing Committee, as well as enablers, partners and stakeholders at different levels of government, academia, media and the private sector. ECCC’s presence, delivering the services described above, demonstrated the value and importance of providing detailed weather services for the safety and security of the Games. This increased visibility among partners translated, post-Games, into an appreciation for the suite of service offerings that can and should be used as an essential federal service for all upcoming major events requiring the coordinated efforts of the EFS team.

From the outset of the Project, there was a strong will to take this opportunity, learn from our experiences and strive to improve meteorological services as a result of those lessons learned. The promise was to leave behind a legacy of data, products, information and experiences that, when combined, would not only demonstrate the commitment that was made to show the world ECCC’s value-added to the Games but also be of lasting value to Canadians.

The next Pan and Parapan American Games will take place in Lima, Peru, in 2019. It is hoped that ECCC’s experiences and lessons learned documented in this report will serve as a useful resource to their meteorological project team as they begin their planning and coordination for their Games.

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